George Brauchler and Phil Weiser, Colorado’s candidates for attorney general, agree on the post’s basic duty: Defend the state’s laws and interests, regardless of personal opinion. After that, though, their positions start to diverge. And because the governor could ask the next AG to weigh in on the legal ramifications of state laws and policies, you’ll want to know where they stand on these three key issues before casting your vote on November 6.
George Brauchler (R)
From: Parker, Colorado
You know him…. As district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, where he tried the Aurora theater shooting case, and as a colonel in the Colorado Army National Guard.
Phil Weiser, (D)
You know him… As former dean of the University of Colorado Law School and as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice during the Obama administration.
On Sanctuary Cities
Brauchler says: “I think sanctuary cities are anathema to the rule of law. I think they are contra to everything we stand for as self-governing people.”
The takeaway: Brauchler won’t back local governments that disobey U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s orders.
Weiser says: “[Denver’s policy has been] if you want to come and testify in court because you are a victim of a crime, we’re going to keep this as a safe zone…. That policy serves to protect public safety.”
The takeaway: He’ll support Denver’s practice of not asking victims and witnesses of crimes about their immigration statuses.
Brauchler says: “Until policymakers convince Coloradans to change TABOR, I am going to be a full supporter and I’m going to defend it, because it is the express, manifested will of Coloradans.”
The takeaway: Brauchler hasn’t supported efforts to work around TABOR’s rules in the past, and he’ll continue to be a strict interpreter of the law—unless Coloradans vote to overturn it.
Weiser says: “You have a job to be a leader, to work with people to solve problems, and to suggest how the law can be improved. With respect to TABOR, there is a clear need to improve.”
The takeaway: Like Brauchler, Weiser will defend the law. But if the Colorado General Assembly or governor wants to (legally) work around TABOR or fight to repeal it, he’d probably be OK with that.
On Gun Safety
Brauchler says: “I’m a strong Second Amendment supporter…. But we’re not doing the things that we need to do to protect us from the people who shouldn’t have guns.”
The takeaway: He’s more open to gun control than other members of his party. Brauchler recently supported a Colorado “red flag” bill that would have allowed law enforcement to seize guns from potentially dangerous individuals (had it passed).
Weiser says: “When I talk to high school students, this is the first thing they ask about: ‘How are you going to work to make sure that people are safe?’ Having a background check is basic common sense. We have to keep it.”
The takeaway: Weiser has said he will vigorously fight for the state’s gun control laws and push for more (like raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm). Weiser also supported the red flag bill.
Brauchler says: “I would resist the federal government to come in over the top, and from 1,500 miles away, to dictate to us their standards and their values on an issue that we’ve already decided on how we want to govern ourselves.”
Weiser says: “When Colorado’s interests are at stake, when Coloradans can be hurt, we absolutely need our offices to stand up to the government.”
On the Death Penalty
Brauchler says: “I support the death penalty as a discretionary tool for properly elected prosecutors. The attorney general doesn’t have the ability to send someone to death. The governor doesn’t. The U.S. attorney doesn’t. Only the 22 elected district attorneys. I think that’s the right model for Colorado. But I think that if this law is something that Coloradans want to keep on the books, and [have the law] be effective, they need to address some of the shortfalls of it.”
Weiser says: “As the attorney general, if the Legislature keeps the death penalty, my job is to defend and enforce the law, and the attorney general’s office handles appeals of death penalty cases. I will do those to the best of my ability. Your job first and foremost is the rule of law, but if the Legislature says to me, ‘What do you think you should do?’ I would share my view, [which is that] we should get rid of it because it is costing us a fair bit of money and juries don’t want to give it.”
Brauchler says: “I would be a vigorous defender of our existing compacts. There are those out there who have said that we really need to be open to renegotiating these things with our neighbors. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe we can ever negotiate a better position than we already have.”
Weiser says: “The challenges we have with water are going to require innovative leadership, and we need an attorney general who is fully engaged and effective.”
On the Attorney General’s Role
Brauchler says: “This [job] should not be a soapbox to elevate someone’s profile nationally or to link hands with a whole bunch of other states that don’t share our interests. To say, ‘How can I defend Obamacare, because I’ve got 19 other Democrat attorney generals that want to do it? How can I force net neutrality through federal overreach instead of encouraging the Legislature or the Congress to do their jobs and seek it?’ This is not a position that should be turned into a third U.S. senator, part of a superhero for the cause, or some rogue Don Quixote warrior that finds a political project and goes and achieves it.”
Weiser says: “The critical issue is: How do we protect Colorado? If [the Environmental Protection Agency administrator], for example, says, ‘I want to get rid of this methane rule,’ and we in Colorado are looking at a lot more net emissions that are going to, basically, pollute our air, I’m going to fight that. If Jeff Sessions says, ‘I’m going to not enforce the Affordable Care Act’s ban on discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions,’ I’m going to fight for those conditions. If the FCC says, ‘I’m going to end network neutrality and leave Internet customers and innovators to fend for themselves,’ and I believe that is illegal and would hurt Coloradans, I will stand up. The critical test is: How does this affect Colorado?”